¨I Survived Living in Bogota and Then One More Year¨
Three years of working and living in Bogota have come to an end.
When I arrived to Bogotá 3 years ago I had planned to stay between 2-3 years because it was the time I saw necessary if I wanted to make a change in the local marketplace.
Bogota was far from easy for me, I struggled through the first 2 years there between highs and lows. Everything was a Reto (Challenge). The city, work, personal life….living, working and training there, just everything! By the 3rd year things just didn´t bug me as much anymore, I was just there living and breathing; coming and going; on automatic to an extent of being almost emotionless or zombie like. I was now fully adapted to the chaotic City of Bogota, Colombia. If you are a big city person who likes the mountains you will love Bogotá, just for me personally I am not the best for a huge city (Bogota has 8-10 million inhabitants) and it affects me.
At the end of my second year I knew I wanted to make a move but I had no clue how, when or where I would go. I also at this time came to terms that I was not quite ready to leave Colombia; I was not ready to say bye, and I needed to figure out why I was not ready; what was I missing. Months passed and I finally came to terms and I became ready but without answers to how, when or where.
The weeks leading up to my departure I kept thinking, what will I miss the most when I leave. When I left Chile to Panama I missed the bread (even though I didn´t eat that much of it), when I left Panama to Colombia it was the rice and lentils (probably Ceviche and Piña too) but I had no clue what I would miss leaving Colombia. I thought, maybe arepas or pan de yuca. To tell you the real truth the one thing I miss from Colombia are it´s people. The warm hearted Colombians who welcomed me with such open arms, made sure I was always ok, who showed me the way, who taught me that their past was harsh but that never changes their culture nor their attitude, and I think they really showed me what is love. I left with my heart soooo full, feeling like pieces of my heart are literally dispersed among so many people who were part of my life in Colombia…not a broken heart but a stolen heart. Oh and…well maybe… orange/mandarin juice sold on nearly any street corner I also miss a good deal (mostly after running) and mango biche!
People always say they loved Colombia for it´s people and I don´t think I really saw this until I left, not because that is when they appeared but instead I think you don´t realize the treasure you have sometimes until you take a big step out. I have never left somewhere crying because I would miss so many people…usually for me saying bye is a simple ¨Bye¨ but I just couldn´t manage that leaving Colombia…I had a real heartfelt goodbye, maybe for the first time ever in my life. Thank you to all those who know they were a part of this goodbye (some may not necessarily be Colombians but close enough).
So stop thinking of Colombia as Escobar and start thinking of Colombia for it´s PEOPLE.
So were the 3 year enough to do what I had to do?
I would say you can sure bet on it. I am overwhelmed at the amount of messages I have received thanking me for making such changes from all over the board, runners, athletes, coworkers, bosses, big bosses and more. I think I didn´t even realize the full impact I was making or had made in the market. I know I saw the changes but how deep they are is something I don´t think I can get my mind around. Not only this but I was also surprised by the reactions when I said I was leaving. After the shock of the news and people understanding what that meant, I received nothing but support, admiration, congratulations and more SUPPORT around my decision.
I am 100% happy with what I accomplished in those 3 years or as several runner stated to me ¨there is a clear mark of before and after you arrived¨ which tells me I have been successful. I also know those challenges have shaped me and that although nothing about living and working in a chaotic huge city was easy I leave amazed by how strong I was to push through each difficult moments and learn from it instead of just dropping out. I definitely learned a lot from others and from my own experiences. I am also really happy others also had the chance to learn from me and more than anything be inspired by me. I love being able to influence others in a positive way with my out-of-the-box thinking and pushing boundaries. What one might call, leaving a legacy.
Fotos from Work…the good stuff not the behind the scenes.
You might notice a thing or 2 about this job from these. (from 2018)
How was my experience in Bogota or Colombia over the past 3 years?
I will leave my blog post from my first 3 months in case you are interested in what my original thoughts on moving there were. Click here.
The first 2 years I lived alone in El Chicó but I got bored of that and this last year I moved and shared an apartment with a local, closer to work near Parque Virrey. I had also moved to have flexibility to leave because I had yet to decide, how, when and where and this move gave me that flexibility. In Colombia as I learned one must advise their landlord 3 months in advance that they are leaving to give the owner time to look for a new tenant… I did not realize this the first year and got lazy and stuck where I was, nothing bad as I enjoyed the neighborhood a lot…in fact after I moved I visited nearly daily to use the pool, gym, see friends, run in the park, shop at stores I enjoyed…so no clue why I moved away but it is what it is. In the new place I could cross the street and be in the Park, that was nice but it is the most popular park in Bogota and I loathed entering it because it was full of people all the time, so I usually managed a quick spin through and quickly out elsewhere. Being closer to the Zona T was nice as I found myself out and about more often (although I was never far away before).
I loved biking the most in Bogota. It was really my only means of transport; yes I used taxis or Uber sometimes and buses or Transmilenio, but it was rare. By biking…I don´t just mean on Sunday because I also despised using ciclovia (largest stretch of street closures for pure exercise, Bogota has the largest with +150km and likely the oldest, since 1974) because it was always full of people and why go where everyone is when you can go anywhere on Sunday because now nearly all streets were without cars while ciclovia was happening (my motto – always explore)…although I must say ciclovia helps get to some areas much quicker. What I loved the most about biking was the ease of it, traffic was less stressful; yes even bike traffic exists, but instead of not moving you could always move around quicker than the vehicle traffic. There are plenty of bike lanes (ciclorutas) that actually serve a purpose throughout the city (many locals would say they lack it and I understand because many don´t have confidence to ride by the cars, buses, etc and it makes sense, no confidence please don´t bike unless you are on cicloruta because that is dangerous for everyone). If the city would just have a permanent ciclovia on a few roads there would be oh so many biking around because well it all has to do with safety. The temperature in Bogota is great for biking. The thing I hated on the bike was the diesel smoke from the cars, that was combated by a face mask which I purchased after 1.5 years..hum. Rain was crappy but you still moved so much quicker especially since when it rains traffic was 10x worse (but yucky puddles do destroy clothes..ewww).
Oh and did I mention biking out of the city….pure bliss, amazing views, few cars (once out of Bogotá and Patios). It was impressive to see the quantity of cyclists in the city (specifically on Sunday) heading up Patios, out on the Autopista, the 80….very impressive (100s of cyclists)! I even biked sometimes to the other office 1:15 hours North of the city during the week. A bit cold but good weekday challenge and it always impressed people (sadly no one was ever convinced to join…ojala one day!). Once a coworker did a weekend event arriving by bike but besides that just to the main office in Zona T.. although even this impressed me…the amount who commute to their offices in Bogota..obviously much less on rainy days or Fridays but still tons biking. Biking is so useful there that even a massive delivery app was created here called Rappi that delivers anything right to your door mainly on bike, even cash! It also goes with the typical Rolo vibe of not moving far out of their neighborhood and still very cautious about safety on the streets (you see them waiting for orders around the city. This also kind of brings a new culture of safety I think.)
I did once have my fixie bike stolen and had it replaced by my old awesome fixie from Panama :D. This was the only time I had anything stolen, robbed, etc in Bogota and it was all my fault because I was ¨dando Papaya¨ (Making it obvious and easy to rob). I locked the bike onto a tree trunk about pencil thin off 2 main streets (one being autopista Sur-Norte and Calle 100) and left it there. Dumb, when I returned the tree had been pulled out and bike stolen….once I realized it was gone I obviously walked home laughing at myself for being so dumb and Dando Papaya. Besides this instance I locked my bike with my Ulock on metal posts anywhere in the city without any problems….many questioned that I didn´t put it in a safer spot (parking lots all offer bike parking and some are even free) and I always said, ¨I have confidence in my lock¨ which when I was robbed was the only thing I was actually sad about :(..not that they took my bike but instead that they also took my lock…LOL. So remember don´t lock your bike to anything like a tree or similar, nor use a crappy lock..thieves are cleaver and quick! LOL
I enjoyed as many puentes (feriados/holidays) in Colombia as I could always trying to get to know as many corners as I could on those 3 days weekends. Colombia has about 18 holidays a year and a good chunk get turned into puentes (3 day weekends) so you can travel quite a bit. There are only 2 months in the year where there are no puentes…Colombians suffer during those 2 months! I will leave a blog entry below I wrote about several puente trips I did while there. Even though I traveled a ton in Colombia I left feeling I saw nothing, there is so much to see in Colombia, it is ridiculous.
- My annual trips tended to be Medellín, Cartagena and San Andres and if I still lived there I am sure I would keep up this tradition Ha ha.
- My favorite city was Mongui in Boyaca (I loved this department, impressively warm people in a cold but gorgeous area – don´t miss this area if you visit Colombia, it is right next door to Bogota).
- Of the bigger cities I am definitely a fan of Medellin, Cali and Manizales, most likely because of the people, potential experiences offered there and the surrounding beauty…but again…the PEOPLE!
- Other places well worth your visit: Tyrona NP, Dept. of Santander, Salento, Guatape, Dept. of Huila
- Some Trip details in blog
Places I must return to discover: Cerro Mavecure, Playa Capurgana, Belen, San Cipriano, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Ciudad Perdida and a bunch more
As far as work goes my most successful projects were plentiful but of those that marked a major difference I believe locally were probably the first product launch I did (2015). Which to me said hey guys I am here, watch out. All the women empowerment effort I lead or took part in was quite the frosting on the cake because it was impactful in a society where women really need to know that they are very important and have a voice (show those men that we are strong and we are a force – through sport of course). Marathon Medellin sponsorship is definitely an important move for Colombia as having that kind of representation with the brand in the country really says something locally. It is the only Boston Qualifier and Marathon in Colombia (quality and pride). This also goes hand in hand with my first long-term project, a global run club (NRC), which I established in Bogota it´s local chapter (definitely one of the top run clubs worldwide) and through the Marathon sponsorship it allowed us access to yet another important running community (Medellin). Through all this and more it was amazing to see the change on people´s feet, watch the running community/culture grow and change, women initiatives start making waves, how runners started paying attention to the Brand and see all that effort over the years shine through finally. Even though I left there is no doubt I loved my job, the challenges with it in the Colombia marketplace and inspiring others…true joy lies in what one is passionate about.
Training and racing in Colombia was great for me being at high altitude (2600m) and all. I for the first time since high school had coaches 3x (once for my first 70.3 and 1 marathon, once for 5k open water swimming and then this year for 6 months another marathon). I learned I enjoy absorbing information and different techniques from coaches, I am not a fan of having my schedule controlled, team effort is nice if it is flexible, and I prefer to go alone but often lack motivation (aka would love company if someone was on the same schedule and level/speed as me). I ended up doing in Colombia 1 70.3 in Cartagena and 2 Olympic Sprint Tri in Guatape and San Andres…would have loved doing Bogota Tri (although the whole circuit a million times made me not sign up) and Paipa. I never did any cycling races but cycled a lot on my own or with friends (from time to time but usually I went solo) but would have loved to do the Gran Fondo Boyaca. As far as road races…my first was Unicef 10k, I did Media Maratón Bogota 3 years in a row (the last one was just the 10k), Maratón Medellín 2x (once 4 years ago and 2018 as my despedida). In addition I did several other races but never coincided with Allianz 15k…one day!
I constantly trained for races in Bogota, to be exact three marathons and two 70.3 (of the 70.3 none of which I have done in my own country…hum). My favorite running route was any that was not the usual. I enjoyed running in Parque Molinos (Pepe Sierra), doing hills in Santa Ana, the upper loop of Virrey (just below 7ma) and long runs on the Circunvalar. I trained many times at night in general due to work schedule. I frequented the Bodytech 102 pool, or the Compensar 93 pool and in the beginning the Complejo Acuatico. Gym was either at home or Stark 105. Cycling route favorites were definitely La Calera-Briceño, anythings around/near Embalse de Tomine and my last discovery was 80 through Tenjo to Subachoque (bummer it was my last ride). The altitude at times was tough but in the end training here then going down to lower elevation for races I lowered significantly my times…I speak of times from training at high altitude not that training at high altitude made me quicker. (my pace at high altitude was never my actual race day pace – it was quicker – at high altitude I never knew my actual pace because I ran much slower there)
Food well I generally just ate what I normally do, my favorite local food was simple, between arepas Boyacenses and pan de yuca…the only other food I frequented more was probably Orso Helado (ice cream shop)..ha ha Bogota has many good options for food, you can even get super healthy and vegan stuff but what was lacking for me was Asian food…I would have loved some good thai food! Indian was available just pricey and Mexican (my other favorite) well there with some decent options. Sushi was a go to (I had my favorite secret spot) and Wok generally was a happy spot…smoothies oh so good! Besides these I cooked at home and never got too local…not your typical ajiaco fan, sorry friends.
As I mentioned above after 3 years I was pretty adapted to Bogota. I often forget the stuff that I noticed in the beginning and what bugged me, so I will share with you a blog I had never published but did write about after one year of living in Bogota. 1 year blog
Again, I leave with my heart so full and the happiness knowing I truly did succeed despite what I felt I suffered in the beginning. I know many times I stay at something simply because of the challenge, I am a sucker for challenges. I think over the years here I was with a constant challenge, to make it though the tough, to win the competition, new projects, etc. and this is what powered me to stay, until it was just time to change, not giving up but simply time to look for the next challenge.
It is an end of an era no más. Time to go onto the next thing.
What else do you want to know about Colombia?
First Trip to Colombia Explorations – Medellín, Meta, Bogotá and Cartagena